The Defense Acquisition Program Administration said Monday that Boeing, Lockheed Martin and the European Aeronautic Defense and Space Company have submitted official bid proposals for Korea’s advanced fighter jet acquisition program. / Yonhap
By Lee Tae-hoon
Two U.S. aerospace giants and a leading European aircraft maker have completed the submission of their proposals to bid in Korea’s advanced fighter jet acquisition program, an official of the state-run arms procurement agency said Monday.
He noted that Boeing was the first one to submit its detailed offer last Thursday with its F-15SE, and Lockheed Martin and the European Aeronautic Defense and Space Company (EADS) followed suit Monday with their F-35 and Eurofighter Typhoon.
The Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA) plans to open the many boxes of documents the three competitors submitted this Thursday for review and evaluation, which will continue through September.
Until recently, Noh Dae-lae, the commissioner of DAPA, maintained that he would announce the winner of the FX-III race, for which 8.29 trillion won ($7.16 billion) is at stake, in October and sign a contract by the end of the year.
However, he recently took a step back from his earlier position amid mounting criticism over his erroneous remarks about the application of simulation tests for the F-35.
He mistakenly said Japan and Israel assessed the F-35, which is still being developed and tested, with a flight simulator and that it will not be an issue for Korea to do so as well. It was later found that the two U.S. allies purchased the F-35 based on a document review without simulator tests or actual test flights.
“DAPA will conduct negotiations in accordance with the current schedule,” Baek Youn-hyeong, spokesman of DAPA said. “If there is a need to extend the negotiation period to protect the national interest, we will discuss the matter through the decision-making process.”
Politicians from both ruling and opposition parties have raised concerns about the “hasty testing and purchasing” of new fighter jets, saying the nation’s largest ever arms purchase plan should be handled by the next administration, which will take office early next year.
“Competing fighter jets should be properly assessed with ample time,” Rep. Shim Jae-chul of the ruling Saenuri Party said in a meeting of the party’s decision-making Supreme Council.
He noted that DAPA will only spend a month for the testing and evaluation of the three multirole fighters and it will not be possible for evaluators to fly the F-35 for testing, nor the F-15SE.
Park Yong-jin, a spokesman of the main opposition Democratic United Party, called for an immediate suspension of the FX-III project, through which Seoul plans to deploy 60 cutting-edge jets from 2016 through 2020.
“The incumbent government must immediately stop the next-generation fighter program, which has been mishandled due to incompetence and stubbornness, and let the next administration deal with it,” he said.
Air Force officials say that it is urgent for the country to introduce new jets without further delays as a large number of the country’s aging F-4s and F-5s are set to retire in several years.
Seoul purchased 60 of the earlier F-15 variant from Boeing, which won both of the FX-I and II projects in 2002 and 2008.
Lockheed Martin’s F-35 is the only one that met the Air Force’s earlier requirements due largely to the fifth-generation fighter’s stealth features and internal weapons bay.
However, the F-35 has been losing its competitive edge in the FX-III race, for which DAPA eased the requirements to allow Boeing and EADs to enter, due to cost overruns and delays in development.
EADS has announced that it would offer a manufacturing facility for its Eurofighter Typhoon — which lacks stealth features — and provide the most extensive amount of technological transfer to Korea.
Boeing has yet to publicly make any enticing offer, but has a strong competitive edge here as it provided 60 the F-15Ks, which will be at least 80 percent comparable with the latest F-15 variant it wants to sell to Seoul.
공군의 차기전투기(F-X) 구매 사업에 국외 3개 업체가 제안서를 제출했다.
18일 방위사업청과 업체에 따르면 지난 15일 미국 보잉사가 처음 제안서를 제출했으며 이날 미국 록히드마틴사와 유럽항공방위우주산업(EADS)이 각각 뒤를 따랐다.
F-15SE를 내세운 보잉은 임무수행의 유연성과 운용 적합성, 적절한 비용 등을 장점으로 꼽았다.
공대공 미사일(AIM-9.AIM-120)과 합동정밀직격탄(JDAM) 등의 무기를 기체 내부에 탑재하고 동체에는 스텔스 기능을 적용하겠다는 것을 제안서에 반영한 것으로 알려졌다.
F-35A의 록히드마틴은 조밀한 적 방공망 위협 속에서도 작전할 수 있고, 전투능력을 갖춘 블록3 소프트웨어를 2016년까지 장착할 수 있으며, 한국형 전투기(KF-X) 개발 협력, 핵심 최첨단 기술이전 등을 명시한 것으로 전해졌다.
방사청은 아직 개발되지 않은 F-35A 전투기에 대해서는 대부분 시뮬레이터와 자료 등을 통해 평가한다는 계획이다.
'유로파이터 타이푼'을 내세운 EADS는 한국에 대해 유로파이터 생산국 지위를 부여하고, KF-X 공동개발에 참여하겠다는 것을 강점으로 꼽은 것으로 알려졌다.
특히 스텔스 기능과 전자전시스템, 엔진 공동 개발을 비롯해 한국이 원하면 전력화 시기를 앞당길 수 있는 유일한 전투기라고 강조했다고 EADS 측은 전했다.
방사청은 각 업체가 제출한 제안서에 우리 정부가 요구한 성능과 종합군수지원, 절충교역 수준 등이 제대로 반영됐는지 이달까지 평가하고, 7월부터 9월까지 시험평가에 들어간다.
시험평가는 자료와 실물, 시뮬레이터 등으로 진행된다. 아직 개발되지 않은 부품 등 실물 평가가 제한되는 항목은 시뮬레이터로 평가한다. 그러나 시뮬레이터에 의한 평가와 그 결과를 놓고 논란은 계속될 전망이다.
방사청은 "제안서 평가를 하고, 대상 장비로 선정된 기종에 대해 시험평가와 협상 등을 거쳐 10월 중 최적의 기종을 결정한다는 목표"라면서 "경쟁구도를 유지한 가운데 국익에 가장 유리한 방향으로 사업을 추진할 계획"이라고 설명했다.
F-X 사업은 올해부터 2021년까지 사업비만 8조3천억원을 투입해 60대의 고성능 전투기를 구매하는 사업이다. (연합뉴스)